As our society develops it is becoming more and more evident that in today’s world there is system of communication that is connecting a grander scale of people than simply a mutually shared language ever could. The Internet has become the most powerful means of communication, connecting billions of people with different languages and cultures around the world. Information is being transferred from continent to continent instantaneously. It has become a form of its own universal language. In many of my Chinese culture classes I learned that China is a huge part of this demographic with 641,601,070 Internet users and counting. As a result of their restrictions on free speech, however, they are hindered. Ever since the Communist took control of China from the Nationalist party in 1949 they have held a tight grip on what their people can and cannot do. This control of human rights is a big factor for maintaining power in China. The truth is that some of these excessive efforts are warranted since the country has such a rich history of overthrowing their own government in order to make room for a new dynasty. Nevertheless, since the death of Mao Zedong and the transfer of power to Deng Xiaoping in 1978, China has arguably become socially more capitalistic and westernized. Even as China shifts into economically into more of a market economy, its government refuses to make these progressive changes socially.
The government censors movies, publications and most prominently the Internet. Any voice that could paint the government in a negative light is silenced. For example, the democratic movement in Tiananmen Square in 1989 is a point of contention between the Chinese government and the rest of the world. Thousands of people, mostly students, gathered in Tiananmen Square and, after many warnings to disperse from the Chinese government, they began to run over their own citizens with tanks and shoot at them. The interesting part about all of this is that many of the Chinese population still do not know the details of what happened to this day. In fact, when you use a Chinese Internet search engine it becomes pretty clear how much power that the government holds in censorship. I ran a search for Tiananmen Square in both the Chinese site Baidu as well as the popular international search engine Google. The results I received were pretty eye opening. Google revealed images of the protests and the military occupying the area in 1989. Pictures of tanks and crowds covered about every page. While the Google search revealed the painful event that took place in Tiananmen Square, Baidu had literally no trace of it anywhere. Whether it was the first or last page it had been removed completely from Chinese access. Apparently this is very common in China. The government fully controls what web pages are displayed and which ones are blocked from the public. Every site must comply with over sixty government regulations in order to be permitted. As difficult at this censorship is to maintain, the government does arrest Internet violators who act outside these cyber-restrictive guidelines.
Looking forward, it will be fascinating to see how the Chinese government deals with maintaining this limitation of free cyber speech in the future. More voices are finding a way to make themselves heard, in one way or another, online everyday. With so much of the world’s communication happening internationally on a keyboard the question remains: How much power will the Chinese government have to give up in order to maintain its position in the international spotlight among more socially democratic states?